CPOHQ Roundtable Recap: DEI & Social Justice according to 40+ CPOs and Georgetown’s Dr. Washington

Announcement #1: DEI transformation

Given our expanding network of thought leaders, Knoetic & Dr. Washington are testing a partnership together. We’ll work with a few companies from today’s session to enable end-to-end DEI transformation (from strategy to goal setting to measurement). If you’re interested, feel free to reply to this email, or contact community@knoetic.com!

Announcement #2: Join recurring roundtables

We’ll be creating smaller cohorts of 5-10 CPOs to participate in more intimate, recurring DEI-focused Roundtables. You can request to join a cohort here.

Announcement #3: Join CPOHQ (free for CPOs)

Finally, if you’d like to leave feedback on today’s Roundtable, join CPOHQ, or suggest DEI consultants with the community, use the same form!

Below are the key takeaways from today’s DEI discussion:

Ella’s Framework - you can read more in HBR.

  • Acknowledge the hurt and harm that Black people have experienced. Commit to a lifetime of learning and better understanding.
  • Affirm your employees’ right to safety and help them feel protected. Employees are looking to leadership for guidance as it will guide an employee’s responses.
  • Act accordingly within your organizations and use your power to enact change. How are your recents donations to Black Lives Matter (BLM) organizations or external communications statements being followed up on? Are you following up on mico-aggressions in the workplace?

What role specifically should the CPO play?

  • The most important role for the CPO to play is ensuring that Executive Leadership is bought in. Make sure to do this before beginning to have conversations with your employees.
  • One company has their CEO & CPO join “Listening Circles” of 10-12 Black employees to hear their stories. If an employee didn’t want to speak, they didn’t have to. They were also given the chance to share their story in writing to their CPO & CEO.
  • Another CPO mentioned joining a Listening Circle with their entire Black workforce. The CPO mentioned the power of silent understanding and compassion - the only thing they did was say “thank you” at the end of the session.

How do you have these conversations but not come across as disingenuous?

  • Your employees aren’t expecting you to solve the centuries of racial issues in this country - as Ella said, “I’ve had to remind the people that we didn’t get here overnight, so we can’t fix this overnight.”
  • Acknowledge and own the fact that anything you do for DEI today is reactive, not proactive. That’s okay. Highlight this has been a call to action to look at your culture, internal processes, etc. and try to own it as best as possible. Your employees aren’t expecting you to solve these problems tomorrow but rather for you to acknowledge, affirm, and act on a short- and long-term plan.
  • Being an ally = being a friend. And don’t ask your Black employees to solve this issue for you - they’ve been facing racism all their life. One participant mentioned that as a Black CPO, she wanted to see how her leadership team would address the problem of race & social justice absent of her help. She noted that they stepped up in a truly authentic way.

What do we do about the fact that we can’t give raises, have hiring freezes in place, etc?

  • Focus on the informal changes you can make now: Is it a way that people talk to each other? Do people feel like they can effectively connect with each other? What do past culture climate assessments say?
  • Remember that at some point we will reopen. How can you now be proactive for when that time comes? What plans can you have put in place?

What should leadership do to show we’re listening?

  • Act on this information the first time, turning it into meaningful change. Don’t expect to be given the chance to repeat the Acknowledging and Affirming steps again.
  • One company’s CEO (who is African-American) held a 1:1 discussion with another African-American leader in the company for the entirety of the company’s all-hands. All employees simply listened & watched.

How should we think about DEI goals & initiatives?

  • There exists a business vs moral case when thinking about DEI. We must acknowledge both sides in tackling them together,
  • One CPO spoke about a previous company where his Executive Leadership team all had DEI goals that were measured and made transparent to the entire company. “When leaders are in the spotlight, there’s more urgency from the collective group to show up.”

How do we hold Listening Circles for our Black employees?

  • Don’t ask participants for their advice on what to do about racism, simply ask them to share their experience.
  • Don't make it seem like you are targeting Black employees, though most are happy to share their thoughts - just be careful how you act on it.
  • Think about trying to scale down Listening Circles, rather than scaling up. Can you make the conversation more intimate? Can it become a 1:1 conversation between an employee and manager?
  • Give your Black employees the opportunity to opt-out from participating in a Listening Circle.
  • Allow employees to submit their stories in writing if they’re not comfortable sharing it in front of others.

Additionally, these are a few articles/resources that CPOs have mentioned to us as helpful:

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